Cook, Christopher Robbers

ISBN 13: 9781842430163

Robbers

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9781842430163: Robbers

This debut novel is written in a style evocative of James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard at their toughest and funniest. From page one and nonstop, Christopher Cook, a brilliant new talent in crime fiction, takes two drifters on a wild and bloody ride across the state of Texas. Written with an eye and heart for the rural south so true that readers will smell the magnolia and taste the dust, this first novel has such authenticity, assuredness, and strength that it will be immediately apparent why James Ellroy has already described it as "my kind of book." From its terse opening lines Robbers promises to be any crime and mystery fan's kind of book: "Eddie didn't intend to shoot the guy. Didn't intend to rob him, either. What happened was - " Thus begins the path of mayhem laid by the two drifters Eddie and Ray Bob, one a sociopath and the other a talented blues guitarist, as well as the mission of the Texas Ranger who pursues them. As the two losers wind their way across Texas, robbing and killing with no long-range plans, and no immediate ones either, they hook up with a young woman named Della. Eddie falls in love with her and decides to clean up his act for her - much to the disgust of Ray Bob, who preferred the trigger-happy life with his buddy before the intrusion of Della with her middle-class desire for respectability.

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Review:

Start with a cliché: Texas is big. Big enough for someone to start running and keep running, big enough to harbor dreams, big enough to crush them. Then transmute the cliché into narrative gold, spun from violence, bittersweet humor, beauty, and terror. The alchemist is Christopher Cook, whose first novel is a noir powerhouse: uncompromising and authentic, with darkly funny characters and prose that veers magically between grandeur and grit. Think James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard, but think William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy too.

The bleak joyride of Robbers follows Eddie and Ray Bob, drifters bound together against a common enemy they're powerless to define (boredom, conventionality, poverty?), on a killing spree across the Lone Star state. A chance shooting in a convenience store sets the two runnin' buddies on a road noteworthy for its anonymity as well as its violence:

The twin tunnels of light the Caddy bored forward into darkness never faltered but seemed to gain no ground different from any other. The FM still didn't work, and they changed from one AM station to another as they ran out from beneath the reach of each into broken waves of static. That's how they knew they were moving. Otherwise they might not have known in that broad charcoal sweep beneath wheeling constellations.
One shooting leads inexorably to another, and another... though nothing else is sure in this breathtaking novel, which counters anticipation with surprise at every turn. The novel's brutality is matter-of-fact, but never casual. When Della, a single mother with an unusually pressing problem, joins Eddie and Ray Bob on the run, the picture gets complicated for all concerned. And the drift becomes a pursuit rich with near-mythic overtones, as Texas Ranger Rule Hooks tracks the trio from the Gulf Coast to the pine forests of East Texas. Hooks is a pragmatic loner with an uncanny ability to sense the movements of his prey: "He stood still. He was having a feeling. He had them now and then and sometimes he listened and sometimes he didn't. It all depended. Just now he didn't know. Wasn't sure."

It may be bad luck to speak of the expectations for Cook's next novel, but when one's debut is as astonishing as this, high expectations are inevitable, as is the impatience with which readers, bowled over by Robbers' speed and skill, will await the next serendipitous event. --Kelly Flynn

About the Author:

Christopher Cook is the author of many short stories and two award-winning fiction books, "Robbers" and "Screen Door Jesus & Other Stories", also available in Kindle editions. A native of the U.S., since 1994 he has lived in France, the Czech Republic, and Mexico. His books are available in numerous foreign editions, and his stories have been included in many anthologies, including Houghton Mifflin's "The Best American Mystery Stories 2003". His memoir essay "Full Moon Over Bohemia," set in the Czech Republic, was selected for "The Best Travel Writing" anthology in 2006. "Screen Door Jesus" has been made into a feature movie, and "Robbers" is under option in the U.S. to become a TV series. Most recently, the author has been writing screenplays and is working on another novel.

(June 2011)

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Cook, Christopher
Published by No Exit Press (2001)
ISBN 10: 1842430165 ISBN 13: 9781842430163
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